AALL Spectrum Blog

  • Bookmark and Share

The AALL Spectrum® blog is published by the American Association of Law Libraries. Submissions from AALL members and other members of the legal community are highly encouraged. Opinions and editorial views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of AALL. AALL does not assume any responsibility for statements advanced by contributors. Previously, the AALL Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.

The AALL Spectrum blog is no longer published. Previous posts are archived on this page.
7/23/2013 11:34:58 AM

Book Review: Entertainment Labor: An Interdisciplinary Bibliography

Entertainment Labor:  An Interdisciplinary Bibliography, by Jonathan Handel. Hollywood Analytics, 2013, 345 pages. Paperback, $95.00

Entertainment Labor: An Interdisciplinary Bibliography has something for everyone, but it is just that inclusiveness or comprehensiveness that could undermine the overall usefulness of the text. The book began as a compilation of sources Mr. Handel could refer to or choose as readings for his entertainment unions and guilds class for which he was an adjunct at UCLA School of Law. According to the introduction, “The bibliography grew and grew, and before long it became a project of its own.” Yet, because there is something for everyone in the book, it is hard to determine the intended audience or really latch on to a “best use” to which the book could be put.

The core of Entertainment Labor is an extensive collection of books and articles that address labor unions in the entertainment field. These books and articles are divided into chapters by subjects including Social Science Books, Selected Biographies (focused on notable individuals, like Ronald Reagan, who were heavily involved with entertainment unions like the Screen Actors Guild), Theses and Dissertations, Legal Books, and Legal Articles and Reports. Readers of Entertainment Labor may find the following helpful, depending on their very specific research needs:

  • The chapter Legal Articles and Reports is lengthy (approximately 40 pages) and would be handy for anyone conducting a preemption check before writing a new article on the union system.
  • The chapters Selected Biographies, Books About the Blacklist, Books about Depiction of Labor and Class, and Social Science Books would be handy if you’re building a historical picture of the relationship between unions and the entertainment industry.
  • Those negotiating against or on behalf of entertainment labor unions may appreciate chapter 16, Union and Guild Materials; chapter 9, Practical Books; and chapter 23, Union and Management Websites. Each of these chapters is very useful for someone unfamiliar with the entertainment labor union system looking for a bird’s-eye view.
  • Looking to leave library life behind? Check out the second half of Practical Books (Chapter 9) for texts on careers in the film industry.

Other chapters, however (particularly those that are only a page or two long), may become lost in the comprehensiveness of the rest of the chapters. For example, University Classes lists classes offered on labor unions in the entertainment industry. Software lists a couple of programs one could use to account for royalties and other earnings. Government Agencies lists four agencies (without providing contact information) that may make decisions affecting entertainment workers. It’s not that these brief chapters aren’t handy, but they seem a bit sparse compared to the other chapters.

Notable features described on the back book cover are quite useful for the most part: brief annotations, descriptions of legal cases, pinpoint pages and chapters, URLs, and a detailed chapter on materials available directly from unions and guilds. However, I found the 90-page index a bit incongruous and lacking in contextual clues. For example, WGA and Writers Guild of America are separate index terms, though they refer to the same subject. (The two terms do cross reference each other, however.) Also, there are no sub-terms to organize the material for the reader. The lawsuit Stone v. Writers Guild of America, West, is indexed three ways: under Stone v. Writers Guild of America, West; Writers Guild of America, West, Stone v.; and Writers Guild of America. Any dates used in the text are separate index terms (e.g., 1911, 1920–1960s, 1939–1953). Consequently, while the index is wildly thorough, it is not necessarily a tool one could use to get a sense of the material in the book.

Those issues aside, it is helpful that Mr. Handel has indexed his annotations. That indexing served as a handy cross reference among the various works. For example, if one looked up Aaron Spelling Productions, Inc. v. Society of Composers and Lyricists in the index, one would see the page on which the case is discussed (page 184) as well as the pages on which other works discussing the Aaron Spelling case appear. In effect, the index provides select secondary sources to refer to when reading about a particular case.

For any librarian looking for a comprehensive, very specific work on resources regarding guilds and unions in the entertainment industry, Entertainment Labor:  An Interdisciplinary Bibliography, could meet your needs...and perhaps even those needs you never knew you had until you've seen the unique scope of this work.

Ingrid Mattson is a Reference Librarian at Moritz Law Library, Moritz College of Law, The Ohio State University. She taught Media Law and Ethics to film students for five years prior to becoming a librarian.

Posted By Ingrid Mattson at 7/23/2013 11:34:58 AM  0 Comments
7/23/2013 11:08:58 AM

AALL program review - Releasing your inner writer

Jesse Katz, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and current in-house editor for the litigation department at O’Melveny & Myers presented a session on “Releasing your inner writer.” His great mix of advice, examples and exercises applied to any type of writing and emphasized the importance of clear and effective communication.  The presentation exceeded my high expectations and this blog post gives me an excuse to put his suggestions into action.

Mr. Katz walked the audience through the writing process and discussed the habits of famous authors.  Although I might not get my work-related writing done in a parked car like Gertrude Stein, I empathize with needing to get away from everyday distractions to achieve quality prose. 

Throughout the session the attendees participated by free-writing for 3 minutes, drafting a cinquaine poem and finally creating the perfect sentence.  This was a great way to illustrate practical techniques and reset the audience’s attention span and get everyone involved.

Finally, Mr. Katz included a refresher of those pesky grammar rules and described the stage of writing which involves the “judge” who is critical and detail-oriented.  This is the part of writing where you have to eliminate weak verbs, clichés and jargon and read (and re-read) your final product out loud.  But he reminded us that this stage must come last and not interfere with the more creative and inspired aspects of the process.  In writing this blog, I found this advice was hardest to follow because it seems almost human nature to edit your work as you start writing it out. 

Overall, a great speaker and presentation that provided valuable tips necessary for all types of writing from emails to scholarly pieces.


Posted By Katrina Miller at 7/23/2013 11:08:58 AM  0 Comments
7/23/2013 8:11:33 AM

Program Review – A7: It’s All About the Money: Rethinking the Way We Teach Cost-Effective Legal Research

Presenters: Kathleen Darvil, Coordinator, Brooklyn Law School Library; Sara Kasai Gras, Mediator, Brooklyn Law School Library;  Caren Biberman, Speaker, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP; Mark A. Gediman, Speaker,  Best Best & Kriger LLP; Connie Smith, Speaker, Morgan Lewis & Bockius; Cheryl Lynn Niemeier, Speaker, Bose, McKinney & Evans LLP.

Moderator Sara Gras began this session with the results of an informal survey of ALL-SIS members on teaching cost effective research.  While most respondents (95%) incorporate cost-effective research into their classes, well under half (only 37%) addressed the focus of the session, recovery of research costs. 

In light of this lapse, the session aimed to highlight the law firm library’s role in cost-recovery, place cost-effective research in the context of cost-recovery and present methods to train cost-effective researchers.  To that end, four law firm librarians were invited to explain cost recovery methods in their firms as well as how they train summer and new associates to conduct cost-effective research.  The ensuing discussion met the first two session goals admirably but addressed the third goal with rather broad strokes.

The librarians presented four very different cost-recovery models.  Ms. Biberman’s firm charges clients for Westlaw and Lexis only, although attorneys use many other resources.  The firm passes through the exact cost, including vendor discounts.  Mr. Gediman’s firm developed its own algorithm to identify a flat per search fee (undisclosed), resulting in costs predictable to both client and attorney.  For similar reasons, Ms. Smith’s firm established an hourly rate (undisclosed) based on the firm’s usage history.  Ms. Niemeier’s firm alone did not concern itself with cost recovery; as a small firm, the expense of administering a cost-recovery program is not worthwhile.  The firm focuses instead on efficient use of attorney research time.

Amidst this diversity of approaches, a strong point of consensus emerged.  The law firm librarians agreed that precision should be the primary research focus.  While, as Mr. Gediman pointed out, model rule 1.5 prohibits using research as a “profit center,” reaching the right answer for a client is paramount.  Lack of quality research can lead to firing, so students should know there are real world consequences for mediocre research skills.

The librarians also agreed that firms believe law students do not know how to research, that they rely on a “Google mentality.”  As an antidote, Ms. Biberman noted that law schools should emphasize the research process and offer more research courses.  Mr. Gediman emphasized repeatedly that we pay for subscription services for a reason, accuracy, and he advised telling students not to use Google at all. 

The panel offered few specifics vis-à-vis their own approaches to training, but some offered general descriptions.

Westlaw and Lexis reps visit Ms. Biberman’s firm five days a week for two hours a day, and the library shares a tip of the week.  Summers are “let loose” for two weeks, and then that research is converted into a dollar amount.  The librarians discuss with the summers any problems they see in this initial period.

Summers and new associates at Ms. Smith’s firm must meet with a librarian or a rep before obtaining a Westlaw or Lexis password.  She also sends out quick tips and maintains a file of tips attorneys can always access.  Further training occurs during events like practice group meetings.

Some firms offered incentives for training attendance, for example, attend six out of seven training sessions and be entered in an iPad drawing. 

The most specific research comments arose during the Q and A.  When asked about the utility of “advanced platforms,” the panelists noted that “basics still matter.”  Students should take care to consider jurisdiction and type of case (e.g., motion for summary judgment v. motion to dismiss). 

Based on this discussion, what should law schools do to train effective researchers?   First, law schools should emphasize quality and, to that end, the continued value of subscription services.  Second, as Gras noted in her introductory remarks, firms adopt varying cost-recovery methods; we should not then train students on only one method, especially retail pricing sheets.  Although the panel did not address assignment design, here is one possibility:  require students to track both time spent and number of searches on an assignment and compare the results.

Ultimately, the firm librarians encouraged law schools to collaborate with firms employing their graduates.  Possibilities include bringing a panel of local law firm librarians to your school, an annual meeting with law firm librarians in your area, or inviting law firm librarians to your classroom.

Gras identified three main challenges to teaching cost effective research strategies:  vendor price sheets are fictional (most firms do not pay these prices); economic models evolve “constantly”; and firms’ approaches vary widely (“infinitely”).  Responding to these challenges will not be easy, but surely collaborating with local law firms can help law schools train their students in cost-recovery.

Posted By Susan Azyndar at 7/23/2013 8:11:33 AM  0 Comments